Home Commentary Open forum OUR CRIME PROBLEM



Dear Source:
The number of homicides is multiplying at an alarming rate and it appears to be getting the attention of the community at large. We have just completed what is considered the most significant process of our democratic system, that of electing representatives to our government. Did that exercise provide us with any hope of gaining control of our crime problem and particularly the high incidence of homicides? We have little less than two months for the year 2002 to come to an end and there seems to be no stop to the number of homicides in the territory. It is not the first time that the territory has experienced a high incidence of homicides in a calendar year. Can anyone remember how we have dealt with the crime wave in the past?
As I remember past performances of the V.I. Police taking control of the streets and consequently control of criminal activities in public places. As I recall there was a time police were more proactive in dealing with the high incidences of violent crimes. There was of course better leadership in the police rank and file than we have presently. I am a member of VIRPO (Virgin Islands Retired Police Organization). I and other members have been expressing our concern over the state of the Police Department and the level of lawlessness that is ever present in our community. We have been recollecting our experiences while on active duty.
We have been comparing the current state of the institution of law enforcement in the government. When most of us started in Public Safety, the former name of the Police Department, the police were the only peace officers or the principal law enforcement agents.
Today we have more agents with peace officer status than in any other period of our history, and law enforcement is at one of its lowest states. A consensus was arrived at: the principal difference is the commitment of the officers and the quality of the leadership. We discussed that perhaps someone should whisper to the governor that he needs to show better leadership and make some serious changes and provide the Police Department the help it really needs. Higher salaries, more vehicles or even more police officers are not the greatest needs; it is good leadership. The morale is very low in the department and that affects performance. There is too much in-fighting and lack of mutual respect among the rank and file police officers. While it may be politically expedient to offer high salaries and equipment, it does not solve the problem of the police poor performance. Human resource is most important, in my view, in any institution, but the current administration seems not to give much importance to that factor in seeking to improve productivity, better public service.
It is our hope that a new administration would realize the need to focus on the morale factor in our government service; that is the key to begin improving government service. Poor or bad leadership contributes to low morale. We need better training for top management and middle management as we raise the standard of performance. We need to reduce the influence of unions in public administration and not let them dictate administrative policies. We need more career administrators in place of political appointees to provide some higher degree of continuity in the administration of our government. We as a people need to be more involved in our government beyond voting for representatives; we need to be vigilant and monitor the performance of our public servants, elected and appointed. Let us pray that God Almighty will illumine our leaders and that they will submit to His will and do the right thing for all of us, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
J.J. Estemac
St. Thomas

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